Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Roman Roads

I had heard many things about driving in Italy, but one thing I didn't expect was that once you get used to the craziness, chaos, and general lack of regard for the highway code here, driving is probably the best way of getting around Rome, (aside from on foot - public transport here is a no-go unless you don't mind waiting anything up to an hour for your bus).

Whereas at home in quaint little England I'm used to getting around in a tiny Ford Ka (where the gear stick starts to shake if I travel at anything above 60mph), in Italy I have discovered that you get a lot more respect on the road if you're vehicle is somewhat on the larger side. On the cobbled and narrow streets of Rome I am now driving what I can only describe as a small land-rover (I think it's proper name is a Daihatsu Terios 4x4 which might be more helpful to anyone who knows anything about cars), which is a challenge in itself before I even take into account the actions of my fellow motorists, not to mention driving on the right (wrong) hand side of the road. Early on in my trip, while taking the car for a 'test drive' with my Italian host, I looked at the jumbled mess of traffic in front of me and wondered aloud which lane I should be aiming for. He merely gave a mighty chuckle and said 'There are no lanes!' as if only a crazy person would expect to find lanes on a road where four cars (and frequently more) can quite comfortably jostle alongside each other.

I have discovered that there are some benefits to being surrounded by crazy drivers though - it means that if I end up getting completely lost and doing something utterly illogical (I have nightmares about entering one of Rome's many one-way streets from the wrong direction) then no one bats an eyelid. However, one downside to this laissez-faire attitude to driving is that seatbelts are seen as strictly optional here rather than a necessity, and concentrating on the madness of Roman roads can be quite the challenge when you have two seven year olds practising gymnastics in the back, while the nine year old in-between them constantly leans forward to change the radio station blocking out half your view of the road, not to mention the 11 year old sitting next to you who refuses to be parked more than three feet away from the front door. Most days it's a miracle we make it home unscathed.

If I ever move to Italy again, this will be my new car

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